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Production Information (Cont'd)
"Who am I and why am I here talking to a bunch of little titty-grabbers instead of leading my men towards glorious death? Great question. I've asked it myself every day since Operation Screw-Up, where I lost a perfectly good eye in a totally preventable enemy attack." -Captain Klenzendorf

As Captain Klenzendorf, the cheekily imperious trainer of Hitler Youth troops who is at various times Jojo's idol, nemesis and confidante, Sam Rockwell once again shows his expansive range. Coming off an Oscar for his portrait of a small-town cop in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI and acclaim for his portrayal of the legendary Bob Fosse in television's FOSSE/VERDON, Rockwell brings both a comic outrageousness and a human touch to the Nazi warrior who has one eye, zero faith in the military command and a growing number of secrets.

For Rockwell, the marriage of comedy and drama, of eye-rolling cynicism and quiet rebellion in Klenzendorf intrigued. "It's such an unusual tone that Taika had in mind for the film," he muses. "You start out thinking: is this film really going to have a pro-Nazi kid as the protagonist? Then you find the story is truly about tolerance and family and humanity and I think it's a very beautiful, sophisticated film."

Rather than look to historical Nazis, Rockwell looked instead to classic comedians for inspiration. "I looked at Bill Murray and Walter Matthau," he laughs. "Klenzendorf is German and he's got one eye and he's gay-but other than that, he is a lot like Matthau in BAD NEWS BEARS."

Much as there is an inanity to the character, Rockwell especially likes that there is more to Klenzendorf than meets the eye. "I really love roles that have a dichotomy to them and Klenzendorf has more than one thing going on. He has his own secrets. For one thing he's a gay Nazi, which though they existed is not a phrase you hear very often, so I found it fascinating to work with that juxtaposition."

Rockwell also found inspiration in his cast mates. "Stephen Merchant was killing me with his ad-libs, the way he and Taika could just riff and have us all in stitches," he says. "And then Rebel Wilson, wow, is she hilarious. Her comedy is funny and weird and so original."

Klenzendorf's more than right-hand-man, Freddie Finkel-who is 100% devoted to Germany, but even more so to Klenzendorf due to the unspoken relationship between them- was another bit of unexpected casting. Taking the role is Alfie Allen, best known as the aggrieved Theon Greyjoy in GAME OF THRONES.

"This role is unlike anything I've done before," Allen notes. "It's a risky, exciting idea and I hope it will do what art should do, provoke different emotions in every kind of person out there."

Allen loved having the chance to collaborate so closely with Rockwell. "The opportunities we had daily to improvise and just have fun were amazing," he says. "If you'd have asked me before if there was one person who I'd most like to work with it would have been Sam. It was a dream come true and even better, we really got along, and the whole dynamic was fantastic."

The family atmosphere on the set made it that much easier for all the actors to take risks, says Allen.

"Taika is so passionate that it permeates through to everybody else," Allen observes. "He likes to have a good time, but he also likes to work hard and go deep, so for him, it's all about building trust and creating an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable. That brought out the best in us all."

Taika Waititi, ADOLF HITLER
"There's no reason to let that thing in the attic ruin your life.
You could actually use it to your advantage." -Adolf

Waititi himself takes on one of the film's central roles as Jojo's imaginary pal and advisor Adolf.

"I wasn't my first choice for the role," Waititi laughs, "and I wasn't the obvious choice. At first, we went out to a few different actors and maybe it's something that makes people nervous, and it probably should, but a lot of actors didn't feel that comfortable with it. For me, it was fun because I didn't base him really at all on the historical Hitler. He's a figment of Jojo's imagination so his knowledge of the world is limited to what a 10-yearold understands. He's the little devil on Jojo's shoulder, basically. He's also a bit of a projection of Jojo's heroes all combined, including his father."

While Waititi incorporates the infamous Hitler schtick-the raging, autocratic language and over-the-top gestures-his Hitler is also infused with Jojo's boyish joy, until he starts to unravel at the imaginary seams. "I decided to just play him as a stupider version of myself-if that's possible-but with a Hitler moustache," says Waititi.

Jojo's fantasy version of Hitler is hardly the historical figure. Instead, he's a loony, larger-than-life mashup of Jojo's own impulses, desires, things he's read or overheard and his yearning for a father figure.

"Jojo's version of Adolf can actually sometimes be quite nice, which might seem a bit weird because he is Hitler, but at other times he's properly scary," describes Davis. "Taika was really amazing at playing that, where he could be so funny and then suddenly, he'll just start staring at you intensely. Taika is such a super positive and upbeat person, but when he's Hitler he can really seem evil."

The first time Davis saw Waititi in costume, he was hit with a serious chill. "I went into Taika's room to ask a question and he was Hitler! My mouth fell open because I'd never seen a life-size Hitler. I'd seen him on a tiny iPad but seeing him as twice the size of me was quite terrifying," he recalls.

As Jojo matures, Hitler shifts in sync with his evolving mind. "I started out giving Adolf a certain posture, but throughout the film his posture grows kind of sadder and sadder and a bit more like he's being weighed down," Waititi describes. "He's very light in the beginning, like Jojo, but by the end of the film he's just this sad, sad despot."

"Now get your things together, kids, it's time to burn some books!" -Fraulein Rahm

Providing deadpan comic relief throughout Jojo Rabbit is Fraulein Rahm, played by Rebel Wilson, the Jungvolk instructor who teaches the girls how to perform their "womanly duties" in war time but dreams of joining the frontlines herself. The Australian comic star known for her ability to bring characters with a hilariously clueless innocence to life. Fraulein Rahm follows in this tradition, ever-willing to believe every absurd Nazi myth that makes the rounds.

When Waititi showed Wilson the script and asked her to bring her own touches to the highly unusual character, she was thrilled. "It's not every day you get sent a comedy script that is both funny and powerful, so I immediately wanted to be part of it," she says. "What I like about Taika's style is that his sense of comedy is very natural - and unusual."

Wilson also had a blast with Rockwell. "I'm a huge fan of his and he's so good at what he does, but also the nicest guy. So apart from having to be Nazis, it was really cool to work with him," she quips. Despite her satiric portrait of a woman who questions absolutely nothing she hears, Wilson notes that Fraulein Rahm is representative of many German women who took lead roles in the war.

"The movie is set towards the end of WWII, when a lot of German men had died, so women were allowed to do jobs that were previously held by men," Wilson explains. "This really did happen: by 1945 it was all-hands- on-deck and women were doing whatever they could. Fraulein Rahm serves in every way she can: teaching girls their womanly duties, giving Jojo physical therapy, then manning a machine gun."

Wilson's fearless improvisational skills and understanding of how to balance her character's absurd oblivion with its impact on the world was a great fit with the film's mix of tones, says Neal. "Rebel often had the whole crew in stitches," he says. "She ad-libbed, she brought in her own lines every day and that's the way that Taika most loves to work."

"We were just Heil-Hitlering each other, and we're about to conduct a random investigation." -Captain Herman Deertz

Perhaps the most hilariously dark and frightening character of all in Jojo Rabbit is Captain Herman Deertz of the Falkenheim Gestapo, who meticulously investigates reports of hidden Jews and resistors. The tricky role is embodied by English comic actor and writer Stephen Merchant, renown for co-writing and co-directing with Ricky Gervais the hugely influential British series THE OFFICE, co-writing and starring in EXTRAS with Gervais, his HBO comedy series "Hello Ladies," and directing his most recent film FIGHTING WITH MY


Merchant appreciated the nearly-impossible needle Waititi threaded in the screenplay. "He took something that on the surface is bleak and found a way to inject it with humor, emotion and heart," he says. "I found the script had a charged, satirical edge in the vein of say DR. STRANGELOVE and other black comedies that confront heavy subject matters by making them very funny."

Though this is their first collaboration, Merchant had an inkling he and Waititi would be on the same wavelength. "I knew that I probably shared a common sensibility with him, both in terms of our senses of humor and our performance styles...and I wasn't disappointed. Taika was very collaborative and indulged me greatly, allowing me to kind of play around with the character and improvise lines."

Part of Merchant's aim was to keep Captain Deertz threatening while also within the farcical tone of the film. He hopes the character reminds people of just how outrageous cults of personality can become. "There is something laughable about the worship of this little man with his little moustache who looks like an angry accountant and that's one of the things that Taika plays with in the film," he observes. "There's a sense of how people can be swept up by, for lack of a better word, bullshit. It's something still resonating right now. We still see people all over the world being swept up in these things-especially when there's a uniform and an identity involved-so it seems well worth satirizing."

"I do think the film might ruffle some feathers but I hope people will see that it's also quite a beautiful, timely story about a boy learning to think for himself, to not swallow hook, line and sinker what he's been told but to question what he sees happening," he concludes.

"The Russians, Jojo, they're coming! And the Americans from the other way, and England and China and Africa and India. The whole world is coming!" - Yorki

Like the story, the design of Jojo Rabbit presents the world through a 10-year-old's confined but vivid lens, full of bright colors and bucolic beauty even amid the oppression and destruction of Nazi Germany. From the start, Waititi knew he wanted to take audiences beyond a nostalgic, "wartime look."

"In a lot of WWII-era films, everyone dresses in brown and gray and it just feels kind of sad and dated. But if you look at the fashions of the time, though, there was really lots of bright color and high style. We didn't want to push too far into something surreal, but we wanted to really bring out the color and energy you don't usually see," says Waititi.

To create Jojo's multihued world, Waititi assembled a tight-knit, award-winning crew led by director of photography Mihai Malaimare (THE MASTER, THE HATE U GIVE), Oscar-nominated production designer Ra Vincent (THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, THOR: RAGNAROK) and costume designer Mayes Rubeo (THOR: RAGNAROK, AVATAR).

Malaimare notes that recently rediscovered color footage of WWII-era Germany utterly altered his view of an era that in most people's minds unspools in black-and-white. To see that world in color-the way Jojo, Rosie and Elsa would have experienced it-gave it a whole new dimension and aliveness.

"One of the things Taika and I talked about in the beginning is that our perception of that time can play tricks on us," Malaimare explains. "We have seen so many muted period films from WWII, whether in black & white or in more somber colors, that we are shocked to see such a vibrant spectrum of color. But that was the reality and once we decided to reflect this, it was an idea that circulated through the set design and the costumes and helped to set the tone Taika wanted for the story. It feels a little strange to the audience only because we are not used to it, but the color I think makes it more real to us."

Adds Ra Vincent: "We all felt we had a unique opportunity here to create a fresh look for a WWII-era film. Since the audience is seeing through the eyes of Jojo, our creative palette couldn't use just color, but heightened color and we could make the environments more joyously abstract. At Jojo's age things are a little more rosy-tinted and the world seems bigger and more amazing. So, we really set out to try to recreate this feeling, the feeling we all have in childhood, but within 1940s Germany."

Malaimare also pored through authentic images of children from those times, especially the work of Magnum Photos founder Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson began photographing Europe on the brink of massive change in the early 1930s. Later, after escaping from a German prisoner-of-war labor camp, he documented the populace of Europe during and after the Allied liberation. His photographs of children evoke a particularly surreal feeling, starkly contrasting their spontaneous playfulness and sheer joy of being alive against the most unchildlike environments of war and ruin.

When it came to Waititi's imaginary Hitler, Waititi and Malaimare decided on a matter-of-fact photographic technique that highlights how normal it feels to Jojo to converse with this friend he's conjured in his mind. "Taika and I came very fast to the conclusion that we should shoot this Hitler as a real character because the more real he is, the more you see through Jojo's eyes," Malaimare elucidates.

Using the Arri Alexa SXT family of digital 35mm cameras, Malaimare took a unique approach to the lenses. Rather than stick to standard anamorphic 2X lenses, he used the Hawk V-light squeeze anamorphic 1.3X lenses that give a more organic feel. "We found this technique of using anamorphic 1.3X lenses gave us the color saturation we wanted. Skin tones get this velvety quality, so it feels very alive without being too overly cinematic," the cinematographer explains. "This too contributes to the film's tone. And since the Hawk lenses are made in Germany it was helpful to be shooting nearby."

To bring Jojo's fictional hometown of Falkenheim to life, the production headed for Zatec and Ustek, small towns in the Czech Republic-in an area that was at times considered part of Germany and was under German occupation in WWII. Here, in a place that was never bombed, pre-war buildings have kept alive that old world, storybook look.

"We chose these towns because it had so much character and it felt like the most German of all the Czech towns we visited, with lots of German-style baroque architecture," says Vincent.

Malaimare found the Czech Republic gave him the creative freedom a cinematographer craves. "Often on a period film, you're trying to hide signs of the modern world with camera angles and lighting but here, everything looked so good and authentic and there was so much detail in every direction, it allowed us so many more options. You could barely tell it was the 21st century because there were no wires or air conditioning units or anything that takes you out of time. So, we had the beautiful luxury of being able to move freely and shoot in 360 degrees and it was quite amazing."

Most of the interior sets were built on stages within Prague's Barrandov Studios, a weighty spot for a WWII satire because during the occupation, that very same studio churned out frightening Nazi propaganda. "It felt like a kind of poetic justice to make Jojo Rabbit here," notes Vincent, "as well as a kind of blessing of the ground and clearing a new path for anti-racist and anti-fascist beliefs to flourish."

The crux of Vincent's work was designing the Betzler house, where much of the action takes place. "We wanted Jojo and Rosie's house to have a very different kind of palette from other period films," Vincent explains. "The building itself is a typically baroque, terraced, stone house but we decided that in furnishing and decorating it, the Betzlers would be very switched on and with the times. That era between 1930 and 1945 was actually a revolutionary one for style in Europe, despite the war. And Rosie's a very stylish woman, so her house has a lot of flair, with very modern, Art Deco designs."

"The interior of the house was incredible for us. Ra's sets were so rich that we could shoot in every direction and it was pure joy," says Malaimare.

However, hidden deep within the lightness of the house is Elsa's dark, cramped space behind the wall, which forges an opposite feeling, mirroring the nearly unbearable tension under which she is forced to live. It also gave Malaimare one of his most serious technical challenges. "For lighting that space, we used only candles, gas lamps and a few 5-watt LEDs. But we were also using T1 lenses and when you shoot at that speed in such low light, there are extreme limitations, especially on the actor's movements. It was very difficult work, so we were excited to be able to get those shots," he says.

As the events in the film grow darker, so too do the colors. Vincent explains, "For the happier, more playful moments in the film, we used a diverse palette of oversaturated colors. Then, we taper those off as more drama comes into play. Most of the film takes place in the Autumn so we also had the chance to bring lush greens sprinkled with gorgeous reds, oranges and pinks into our street scenes."

For the costumes, Mayes Rubeo-known for designs spanning from the ancient Mayan realm of APOCALYPTO to the fictional world of AVATAR to the Marvel universe of THOR: RAGANAROK- worked closely in synch with Vincent.

Waititi had observed in his research that people tended to dress far more formally than today, perhaps out of fatalism, and he wanted to capture that sense of elegant beauty that persisted. "Towards the end of the war, people thought every day could be their last, so they wore their very best clothes and put on all their makeup," he explains. "If they were going to die, they wanted to look good."

As with Vincent, Waititi impressed upon Rubeo that he wanted a look for the film that was unexpected and filled with the spirit of childhood. "Taika always said, 'I want a WWII world that doesn't look like any other, because this movie is seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old,'" recalls Rubeo. "At that age, I think you remember everything but with a kind of brightness to it all. Everything looks like a Spring morning. For me, I felt that what Taika was after was a lot like what the Italian Neorealists were doing in the 40s, but in color. The film has all those Neorealist qualities where there are sunny and charming moments but also very dramatic moments, and the mood can go from funny to tragic in a snap."

The core of Rubeo's work was the heartbeat of Jojo's world: the polished and chic Rosie Betzler. Rubeo rummaged through the most magical Italian costume houses for choice vintage pieces. But she also created several of Rosie's blouses and dresses by hand to bring out even more of her character.

"Rosie is this wonderful, extroverted character whose life is like a provocation because she's so determined and not down at all with Hitler. For me she was the anchor from which all the other designs came from," says Rubeo. "We talked about her having an artistic background and I took that as my starting point. Also, there's a feeling that before the war the Betzlers lived well. Even if now they only have one potato to eat it's still served on a fancy tablecloth because Rosie still believes in the good life."

Rosie's look had to be so distinctive that the audience recognizes her, in a flash, in the scene that is a devastating emotional turning point of the story. "The butterfly seemed to express who she is, and we used a very distinctive pair of shoes, which stand out for a lady in that era. I think it is more powerful when you just see the shoes and make the connection to the butterfly in this moment," says Rubeo.

For Mihai Malaimare, there was no need for the camera to pull back in that moment. "We worked with Mayes throughout to prepare for this," he explains. "So, with the camera we always tried to make sure the audience was aware of Rosie's shoes. For example, you really notice them when she's dancing by the river in that light moment so that later we don't need to show any more."

Jojo of course mainly wears his Jungvolk uniform which Rubeo based on authentic, historical designs. "We found some vintage uniforms in Berlin, but we had to make a lot of them in different sizes for all the extras, so we made our own. When you see Jojo in his uniform at home it is like he is a boy trying to be the policeman of his household," she describes.

For Waititi's absurdist rendition of Hitler, Rubeo also hewed to the infamous basic brown Nazi Party uniform. But she kept this Adolf in a more voluminous pair of riding pants that both emphasize his imaginary nature and his roiling insecurities.

Throughout much of the film, Rubeo stayed true to the austere and tailored look favored by the German military. But she had a chance to get glitzier with Captain Klenzendorf, who secretly fancies himself a uniform designer-and ultimately breaks out of his confines to bring to life his unorthodox dream outfit.

"Captain Klenzendorf lives in a world of his own," laughs Rubeo. "He has all this flamboyant creativity that we wanted to give expression to at the end, when he explodes onto the scene. Taika brought in lots of ideas and I knew he wanted something homemade, colorful and funny, but also a little bit heroic. The main thing for me was that it had to feel like a uniform made by someone who knows almost nothing about the rules of design. That was fun to do!"

With so many designs that, much like the film, veer from the historic to the utterly unique, Rubeo spent intensive hours with Waititi-which she says never stopped being a pleasure. "Taika loves constant communication and I loved it, too, because when you spend so much time together that's when you're able to create something that harmonizes with all the other elements, which was so important for Jojo."

Visual effects supervisor Jason Chen also worked to extend Jojo's world. He especially had his work cut out for him in the film's climactic battle scene as full-scale combat comes out of the abstract to Jojo's street. "We wanted the movie to break out into absolute chaos with tanks roaming all over the place and lots of gunfire and destruction," Chen describes. "For most of the film, we've been in Jojo's imagination, with his playful view of war, but when the battle hits the town, we're suddenly struck with the reality of what war really is. We wanted the frightening atmosphere and noise of it to feel very real."

"In some ways it feels very visceral and real, but we also created something that becomes a kind of magical and surreal moment in the film," notes Malaimare of the climactic scene.

One of Chen's favorite whimsical scenes is when Jojo and Elsa converse in the attic, growing closer in spite of themselves, with a glittering nightscape hanging in the sky behind them. "There's one little single window above them reflecting bombs going off in the distance. We used a matte painting that looks almost like stars above them to help create this romantic but heart-breaking moment," Chen says.

Like the rest of the crew, Chen loved being invited daily to take his creativity to the nth degree. "Taika is the ultimate team player," he describes. "He will take anyone's suggestion on the crew. He truly believes in saying to everyone: here is outline of my idea, help me to sculpt it."

"The Reich is dying. We're going to lose this war and then what will you do?
All I'm saying is that life is a gift and therefore we must celebrate it."
-Rosie Betzler

Waititi and his editor, Tom Eagles, (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE) collaborated closely with Oscar-winning composer, Michael Giacchino who while editing the film created a score that works hand-in-hand with the spirit of the film, flowing through the full spectrum of Jojo's emotions.

"I've been a fan of Michael's work for a long time, especially his incredible, heartfelt score for Pixar's UP," said Waititi.

Known for creating the immediately recognizable scores for seven of Pixar's animated adventures, Giacchino has also become one of the most sought-after composers for mega-blockbusters such as STAR TREK BEYOND, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. But he says that his score for Jojo Rabbit may be his favorite to date.

"I'm proud of being part of a film that isn't afraid to speak its truth and put something out there that might raise some eyebrows, but I hope will lead to some really great and important conversations," he says. "Taika just ran with this crazy idea in a very beautiful way and I think if you want to say something that's true and necessary in this world you have to take some big risks."

Waititi continued, "His work on Jojo Rabbit elevated the film to a new level, increasing the emotional resonance and tying the themes, characters and world of the movie together. It was a highly collaborative and instinctive process working with him."

Though Giacchino usually avoids reading scripts, preferring to absorb the more direct emotions of footage, in this case Waititi asked him to take a look so they could talk about it. Giacchino was very glad he did. "I loved it so much," he says, "and knowing Taika's other movies I knew he would bring just the right touch. He really understands how comedy and tragedy are intertwined. The best comedy has always come out of the hardest human situations and Nazi Germany is one of the hardest situations in history."

Once he'd taken in the power of the script, he and Waititi talked tone. "We both agreed we wanted to be straight-up, pure and true with the music," Giacchino says. "Taika didn't need the music to be comical because the film was already so funny. The first question I always ask is, 'what feeling do you want people to walk away with from this movie?' For me, that feeling was Jojo going from a closed-off, blinders-on attitude about the world to having his worldview smashed open to starting to see everything in a very different way. That was the inspiration."

It was clear to Giacchino that just as the visuals emanate from Jojo's innocence, exuberance and naivete, so too should the music be driven by his emotionally volatile character. "I felt the music should always be with him, so the first thing I did was to write an 11-minute suite that showed the course of his character. Although there are moments when Rosie or Elsa will change the music, the score is all primarily drawn from Jojo's emotions. The main melody is played throughout the movie in several different ways. While it begins as a march it later becomes an adagio during the battle as Jojo's own nationalism begins to transform into something else."

Giacchino was ready to think outside the box as well. This included everything from writing songs with lyricist Elyssa Samsel for Jojo and his compatriots to sing in the Jungvolk camp to using his connection with Paul McCartney to explain why he should absolutely grant permission for Waititi to use the German version of the Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand" for a scene about hysteria for Hitler.

Still, his foundation lay in classical influences. "I knew I wanted a very European score, something that felt like if you were wandering down the street in 1939 Germany, you might hear that music playing out someone's window. Chopin, Liszt and Satie were all influences. But most of all what inspired me is constantly thinking, 'what is the film asking for?' You just have to try to take on those really hard emotions and feel them in your gut. That's the challenge of a film like this."

Those emotions led to the choice of a pared-down ensemble: a 22-piece orchestra with a string quartet at its center, as well as piano, a couple of guitars, some brass and percussion. "For me, it's a really nice change to work with a small, intimate group like that," Giacchino says. "I'm used to working with a 100-piece orchestra, but I personally feel the smaller the orchestra, the more emotional the sound."

While the film breaks out into the Beatles and then Bowie (utilizing the German version of Bowie's song "Heroes"-a song about the Berlin wall, which Bowie scholar David Buckley called "perhaps pop's definitive statement of the potential triumph of the human spirit over adversity"), the score contrasts with those anachronisms.

"Having a more traditional score with the Beatles and Bowie moments I think makes it even stranger and stronger," Giacchino observes. "Somehow it all works together, and I don't entirely know how. I think perhaps it's because everything was chosen from exactly the right emotions for the scenes. We did face a pretty big problem of convincing people to let us use their songs for a story about Hitler. I've had the incredible opportunity to work before with Paul McCartney, who is one of my heroes, so I was part of a group of people who all approached him to explain that this movie isn't what it might seem and it's really a powerful statement against hate. In the end, it all worked out and Taika got the songs he wanted."

Indeed, for Jojo Rabbit to succeed, what it always needed was for enough people to believe in what it was trying to do, however audaciously. In the end, as much as Jojo Rabbit showcases the tragically absurd realities of authoritarianism and nationalistic fervor, as well as the personal wages of prejudice and hate, the film equally reminds us of our human connection and the simple responsibility we all have to do what we can...including simply trying to be good to one another.

Waititi sums up: "This feels like exactly the right time to tell this story...because this is a case where you don't want it to be too late to tell it."


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